A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 2

cow and friend

I am still ticked about what happened yesterday, and there is something I have been holding in that started to seep out in that last post.
Now’s the time to get this off my chest:

Lots of people talk about pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods; this is important information to get out there. Here is a different approach to what might be an overlooked yet significant issue with our food supply.

Did you know that animals can smell death?
Sometimes we can as well, I did once, nurses probably do.
But animals smell it as a matter of survival.

It is not unheard of for a pig, held in a holding pen in line to be slaughtered, to simply faint. Fear?
They are very social animals as well, and when kept in isolation in birthing cages, have been known to bang their heads against the side of the cage until they die.
What kind of emotional suffering causes that behavior?

Chickens often are subject to what would be considered inhumane practices as they are being ‘processed’.

Milk cows have their young taken away soon after birth, so they can be artificially impregnated again and the milk supply continue.

This is not all farms, but this is now the most common.
You read and hear a lot about all the other issues with our food supply, but rarely have I seen anyone talk about this aspect of it.

Just as we excrete chemicals in our body as a result of life circumstances such as happiness, fear, loneliness and love, so do animals.

As a society what we are consuming and feeding to our children is suffering, loneliness, fear, anxiety and an unnatural break from nature.

I would bet that if a scientist were to look at a sample of muscle from a deer taken by a hunter, and compare that to a pig killed in a slaughterhouse, they would find very different levels of these chemicals.

Why are animals being factory farmed this way, when there are alternatives?

Now the farmer would answer that they need to raise the meat using these practices because of the demand for it, and to keep prices low. This is especially the case for farmers who supply most fast food places.

So what is the one variable in this formula that we, as concerned consumers, can change?

The Demand.

We can demand less, and demand better.

Many Americans eat meat three times a day, which is much more than we need.
Technically, we don’t need to eat any meat, but let’s not go there.

If we all cut down to either once or twice per day, we could afford to buy the grass fed beef and the organic eggs.

If we cut out one or two days a week, a Meatless Monday for example, we could afford the better products.

We could eat the meat that comes from happy animals, ones that were allowed to be outdoors and have families and range in their natural way.

The same way we grow our own veggies because they taste better and are healthier, we can make the change that will allow us to have the better quality meat as well.

And if the demand for better quality goes up, more farmers will look to provide quality over quantity.
Economics 101.

Then what we will have will be better for us, better for our children, and better for the environment.

In the long run, that may be just what we need to turn around all the violence and need for medications that our children and grandchildren now face as a part of daily life.

Shouldn’t we do that for them?
Isn’t one day without meat worth it?

For more information on our food supply:
The Chipotle’s Scarecrow.
Food, Inc.
Suggested reading: Eating Animals

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Categories: special posts, you are what you eat

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A Rant: For Our Children and Grandchildren Pt. 1

gardener's perspective

The facility I work at has on site a pre-school program, government offices, a senior center, a playground and a little league ball field. It is a place where many local residents can find something to do.

Today, a 16 year old boy shot a younger boy playing nearby with an air BB gun, multiple times. The physical wounds were not severe, about a dozen welts to the arm and back.
The emotional wounds, for both boys, will last much longer.

When questioned by police the older boy reported that he had not taken his medication that morning, he has anger issues and sometimes does bad things without his medication.

Both boys are victims here, and I’ll explain why I say that.

We are spiritual beings in a chemical body. If you don’t have a religious faith, we are still chemical beings.

‘Carbon based life forms’ is what they called it on Star Trek, but that is exactly what we are.

When we hurt, when we are sad or happy, and when we are fearful or feel any other emotions, our brains and bodies secrete chemicals that flow throughout us.

Did you ever see a video of a child playing with puppies?
If you smiled and felt good, that was at least partially the result of your brain releasing a chemical called Serotonin into your body. Yeah, advertisers know this.

My background is not in horticulture but actually in psychology, and we’ve learned from studies and information gathered long ago that our minds react chemically, and also in other ways that is more difficult to understand. Many call that part the ‘soul’.

In the recent example of Robin Williams, I believe he was a soul tortured by what the chemical processes were doing inside his body. Depression causes a known chemical reaction in the body. The same is true for anger issues and many other deviations from what we might consider the average.

Note I don’t use the term ‘normal’.

So what has happened to our children that we now see a young person go out and harm someone defenseless?
Sandy Hook, Columbine… plus there are many other incidences, like the one here, that you never hear of.

I grew up in the town where I work, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything other than normal growing pains amongst kids.
What has changed in the past 40-some years? Well, a lot; but one of the main things is our diet.

“You are what you eat” or more literally, “Man is as he eats” was quoted almost 200 years ago by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Most of what we eat today is meat filled with the chemicals secreted by fear, suffering, maltreatment and pain. With few exceptions, our burgers and eggs are heavily dosed with antibiotics and the feed these animals are given is laden with pesticides. Man made chemicals are also found on a lot of the produce we consume.

We’re feeding this to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and step-children.

I understand it is easier to get and afford these ‘foods’ than the better alternative, but all of us can make a few choices, easy choices really, to change this.

I’ll post that tomorrow, right now I need to take a walk in the garden to help put it all in perspective.

Tomorrow I’ll post what I think we can all do to help change this, from the easy to the more involved.

I hope you will share that post as much as you can… this has got to stop.

For now, thanks for listening. <3

Categories: gardening people, places & things, special posts, you are what you eat

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How Much Room Does Corn Need to Grow?

growing corn

My husband decided to be more involved in the garden this year, beyond just the grunt work.
The idea was to work together and grow less variety of plants, but enough of each to last a year.
So at the planning stage he gave his opinion about growing one of our favorites, sweet corn.

“It takes up too much room,” he said, “grow something else and we’ll just buy corn from the farmer.”

Okay, sounds like a plan.

So he added the manure to the beds and I planted the seeds and seedlings. When all was finished there was one bed left.

This was an opportunity to plant something I have always wanted to, dry corn.
Corn meal, polenta, grits; things we never were able to make from homegrown before we will get a shot at this fall.

Yesterday we did pick up about 10 dozen sweet ears from our local corn farmer, and proceeded to remove the kernels and process it.
It took a few hours, and the conversation led to the question of how much room it would take to grow that amount of sweet corn ourselves.

So I took him into the garden and showed him the corn bed.
In a 4 ft by 10 ft bed, there are 14 rows of corn with 4 or 5 stalks in each row.

Not to mention the beans and squash growing below.

“Most sweet corn will produce 2 ears per stalk,” I told him, “this is all the room we would need.”

“Oh, I thought it took a lot more space. Next year we should grow our own corn.”

“Hmm…” I thought, “let’s see first how much better the polenta tastes.”

Categories: corn

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5 Points to Help With Container Gardening

There are some wonderful gardeners out there who grow solely in containers; they are to be admired.

Even if you have a nice sized garden, container gardening can allow you to grow more invasive plants, as well as some items you might otherwise not be able to.

Here are a few things we’ve learned that are good to know if containers are going to be a part or all of your garden:

1. Use the right soil.

Containers need something light, so that it will not get packed down, and so the roots have freedom to roam.
Garden centers carry an assortment of potting soils to choose from. My Dad always mixed his own- a blend of vermiculite, sphagnum moss, and perlite, that he would add compost and/or fertilizer to.
There is a mix called BM1 that is good for an abundant number of containers or large raised beds, you should also add the compost and fertilizer as needed.

what were sunchokes

ooops!

2. Containers need more frequent watering.

Mulching can help this, but by their very nature containers do not hold on to water as well as the ground does.
Check your containers often. The best advice we heard was to water your containers until the water comes out the bottom. When you’re done with all your containers, go back and do it again. This gives the soil a chance to absorb more moisture.

When you are incorporating containers into a larger garden setting, grouping them helps with watering. Don’t learn the hard way that a container out of sight is also out of mind. Sorry Sunchokes.

3. Choose wisely.This has two components:

a. If you’re growing exclusively in containers- choose plants and plant varieties that do well in containers. Adjectives that describe a smaller stature, like ‘Fairy’ and ‘Baby’ are often good clues that the plant will be better suited to a container. A good seed catalog or website, like Johnny’s Seeds will clearly indicate which plants do better in tight spots.

b. If you’re mixing it up- you may want to plant some of the more invasive plants in the containers.
If that’s the case remember they still have drainage holes, and their roots can grow through them. Really.
You can plant the more invasive plants, like horseradish, in large barrels that sit on top of flat stones.

Some plants can also flower and re-seed themselves, mint and marjoram are quite prolific here. For years I thought Dill was a perennial. These we plant in large pots.

prickly pears

containing the growth

4. Keep them light-

Unless you are planting a perennial and placing it in a permanent location, you’re going to need to deal with the weight of the pot and its contents at some point.
Using a product like ‘Ups a Daisy‘ or simply placing a small upside down plastic pot inside you container before adding the soil will help keep it light.
Bonus- this also makes for better drainage. Which brings up the point-

5. Give them good drainage-

Of course you’ll use pots that have drain holes in them, but if those holes get blocked, drainage could be compromised. This can happen from within, if the soil fills the holes in. This can also happen on the outside, if you place the pot in such a way that the holes get blocked,on soil or mulch for example.
Many gardeners use pebbles, glass stones, even pieces of broken pots to line the bottom of their containers and hep with drainage. Depending on what the pot is made of, you can also drill a few holes along the outside near the bottom.

olive trees

ready to come indoors as needed

Categories: container gardening

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5 Mid Summer Garden Tasks

A mid summer garden.

No areas here are actually empty, they are just waiting to sprout.

Depending on your location, your garden is likely well under way and possibly even winding down.

Everyone tends to get busy this time of year, with vacations, picnics and even back to school preparations.

Still, your garden needs a little attention beyond weeding, watering and harvesting.

Here are a few things you should consider at this time of year:

1. Succession planting.

Some edibles, like parsnips, do better if allowed to grow throughout the winter and harvested in the spring. Many of the greens can take the cold and be harvested well after everything else has finished.
Check for your area, and replant any parts of the garden that are done producing.

2. Feed your plants.

Your veggies need your help. They are working hard to produce, and a good dose of compost tea would help keep them strong enough to provide you an abundant harvest.

We recommend a liquid feeding of Moo Poo Tea, shown here:

Haven brand Moo Poo Tea

Haven brand Moo Poo Tea

Here’s how to use it and why it works so well.

We will be using this later today to give the garden the shot in the arm it needs right now, from new seedlings to heavily producing veggie plants.

3. Prepare for Autumn.

-Be sure to have seeds for growing cover crops or mulch to help prevent weeds on hand.
-Check on tools, like pruning sheers, to be sure they are in good condition.
-Consider harvesting herbs now. You don’t have to wait until the threat of frost to get a jump start on bringing things in.
-Prepare a bed, or be ready to, for a fall planting of garlic.
-Have an area ready indoors for any potted plants you intend to bring in before the cold weather.

4. Get ready for next season.

This is especially important for anyone who starts seeds indoors and/or pushes the season with extenders such as cold frames.
Be sure you have the supplies you need on hand, as they may not be readily available when you need them.
Get your seed starting mix and supplies while the stores still have them in stock.

5. Consider indoor veggie growing for the winter.

We recently started seeds for a tomato that does well indoors, and have some herb seeds started as well. Updates on them will be forthcoming.

Growing tomatoes indoors.

Year round tomatoes?

Note: We were not paid to recommend these products nor given them for free. We are simply sharing what we like.

Categories: Addiction, gardening

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Organic Onions 75 Cents per Pound-You Can Grow That!

organic onions

4 Varieties with different colors, flavors, and storage potential.

This year, we did the math.

Onion plants from Dixondale Farms, 6 bunches: $30.72
The more bunches you buy, the lower the cost.
If you don’t want a lot, see if a friend will go in on an order with you.

Harvest: 43 pounds.
Note that this does not include the quart of roasted green onion tops, nor the ones we pulled early as scallions, or the ones we gave to our daughter to plant.

Soil Amendment: Free horse manure and about 50 cents worth of bone meal. Though that’s probably an over estimate.

Cost/pound: $0.73

Recently our local organic market had onions on sale for $3.69 for a 3 pound bag.
Plain yellow onions, no choice of variety.

No freedom to choose based on flavor and storage capability.
No green tops!

The freshness and freedom to grow the kinds of onions you want organically, plus the perks of roasted tops?

Yep,
you can grow that
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by garden writers around the world to encourage others to grow something.

Categories: saving money & time, you can grow that

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The Weather Changes Everything

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes in slow motion.

Here and in many other places in the northern U. S. the weather has been unseasonably cold.
People have mentioned the now dreaded term Polar Vortex, though technically that isn’t what is happening.

Still, we have yet to see temperatures hit 90F, and for some of the veggies growing, this is confusing.

The hardest hit are the real heat lovers like sweet potatoes, and the cold weather crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

The sweet potatoes thrive in the heat, and with the cooler temperatures they are growing, but slowly.
Fortunately they are in a bed that can be turned into a high tunnel and the season extended.

cauliflower

Cauliflower, waiting.

The coles are just sitting there. Normally by this time of year they would have either been harvested, or if it was a very hot summer, bolted.
But neither has taken place; they are healthy plants, but confused at the same time.

It isn’t hot enough to make them bolt, and it isn’t cool enough to make them produce heads.

cabbage

Cabbage, on hold.

It is going to be really interesting to see what happens in the fall, we’ll get back to you on that.

Categories: Addiction, gardening, plant problems

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How to Grow Ground Cherries

ground cherries

Their name makes sense.

Ground cherries, a relative of tomatoes and looking very similar to their closer cousin tomatillos, are cherry sized and drop to the ground where they ripen.

Now if that sounds kind of messy to you, it really isn’t. Like a tomatillo, they are wrapped in a papery shell which keeps them clean.

Start seeds indoors the same time as tomatoes, about 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. Plant them when the soil is warm, setting the transplants in deep also like tomatoes.
The plants are pretty hardy and can take most soil types, but do better in a loose soil that allows for root growth.

Ground cherries also will develop more roots along any part of the stem that is below ground, helping them to take in more nutrients.

They produce many pretty small yellow flowers, and the tiny fruit will be ready to harvest about the same time as your tomatoes.

ground cherries

They start dropping to the ground at a green stage. When the husks turn a deep yellow, the fruit are ready to eat.

The taste has just a hint of tomato, but is much more like candy; very tart and sweet and rather addictive.
Prepare as you would berries or other fruit.

Botanical Name: Physalis spp.
AKA: Cape Gooseberry, Gooseberry, Strawberry Husk Tomato, Husk tomato
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Anywhere you can grow a tomato.
Days to maturity: About 65 days to drop, a few more to ripen.
Harvest: As they fall, eat when the husks turn dark yellow.
Yield: Prolific.
Storage: They hold up well in the refrigerator. Freeze with the husks off. If you have any left, that is. Can as a jam or fruit chutney.
Pests & Diseases: Same as tomatoes.

Categories: ground cherries

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Zucchini – When More is Less

Costata Romanesco zucchini

First this one popped up.

My husband Mandolin Jones always jokes that “Two zucchini plants are at least one too many.”

It is not hard to understand his thinking.
Back in our restaurant days it what quite common for us to find ‘donations’ of surplus green squash on our stoop.
The local gardeners knew they would not go to waste.

So over the years we kind of backed off on the zucchini.
We tried a few varieties, including one hybrid called Cashflow, that would have lived up to its name if we were selling them.

If was only a few years ago that an heirloom called Costata Romanesco caught my eye. It wasn’t very prolific, but distinctive in its appearance and the taste was far superior to any others we had grown.

I’ll admit I got caught up in trying new varieties, forgot about that one, and Mandolin seemed less than interested in any of them.

It wasn’t until this past spring when I found a small packet of seeds I had saved, that I thought about that delightful heirloom. Hoping that the parent plant had not cross pollinated with another squash, I gave it a go.

And gone it was.

Apparently either the birds or the voles took the seeds, or so I thought.
So I planted again.

As good luck would have it, 1 of the first batch did finally sprout, then later on 2 from the second sowing.
Older seeds don’t always germinate as well as fresh ones.

Costata Romanesco zucchini

And then…

So on a recent walk through the garden Mandolin asked “Is this zucchini?”
“Yes.”

“And this is zucchini too, right? Three plants?”

I paused.
“Yes.”

He paused, and took a closer look.

“Is that the delicious variety you grew a few years ago?”
“Yes, yes it is.”

“Good,” he said, “I liked those.”

Sometimes I guess, you just get lucky.

More on this variety.
Zucchini- When 2 Plants are are Least One Too Many on Pinterest

Categories: squash

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6 Warm Weather Plants to Grow in Colder Areas

Baby Clementines

Baby Clementines

You are not as limited by your growing region as you might think.
Over the last few years we have discovered there are more plants that can be grown in a cooler region, like here in the northeast zone 5/6, than we thought possible.

1. Meyer Lemons

We purchased a grafted tree that can be grown in a pot. Lemon trees can take cold temperatures to just below freezing, and we have heard of many gardeners in the north keeping theirs in a greenhouse through the winter.
Our intention is to bring it indoors instead, as the flowers have a wonderful scent and the plant is attractive.

There are already a number of tiny lemons just this first season, and hopefully they were pollinated well enough that they will develop into lemons.
Admittedly, we used our tuning fork to help hedge that bet.

2. Clementines

Growing similarly and close by is another grafted tree that will produce Mandolin Jones’ favorite fruit. This is also in its first season and already loaded with tiny fruit.
Like the lemon tree, this will be coming indoors for the winter.

3. Avocado

Now in its second year, the avocado tree will be flowering later in the season.
Last year it did produce 8 fruit, all of which were accidentally knocked off in 3 separate accidents.
We have learned to be much more careful with our special trees now, particularly when moving them back indoors.

4. Ginger

This is the second round for growing ginger from a store bought root.
You can read all about it here. The main thing we have since learned is that we prefer homegrown so much, that we are going to need at least one more pot of it to get through the year.

You’ve got to love the added benefit of never having to buy ginger again.

5. Turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric is grown pretty much the same way. Our roots that were covered in soil sprouted better than ones placed just on top, like the ginger root was.

It is supposed to produce a few months sooner and we are looking forward to prepping it in the same way we did the ginger.

6. Wasabi

This is the newest plant to join the array of unusual things to grow, and the one we are having the most difficult time with. Wasabi prefers to be in the shade and it requires lots of water.
That combination can easily lead to a mold issue, so we have found that it also needs air circulating about it.

Which in turn leads to a need for more water.

So yes, admittedly keeping this plant alive has been a test of our gardening dedication. Especially because at a DTM of 2 years, it will also be the plant growing the longest before it can be harvested.

Homegrown Turmeric

Homegrown Turmeric

Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments

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